Sylvatic plague is a flea-borne bacterial disease of wild rodents. Humans, pets, and wildlife can be afflicted with this disease. Prairie dogs are highly susceptible to plague and are the primary food source of the highly endangered black-footed ferret, which is also susceptible to the disease.
Why hasn't the US eradicated the plague?
The Black Death caused about 50 million deaths across Africa, Asia and Europe in the 14th Century. It wiped out up to half of Europe's population. Its last terrifying outbreak in London was the Great Plague of 1665...
What is Plague? Is it only a wildlife disease?
Learn more about plague from USGS Circular 1372. Written for both scholars and the general public, Plague presents information about the disease in a simple, straightforward manner.
Sylvatic plague can decimate prairie dog colonies (90% or greater mortality rates), resulting in local extinctions and population reductions. USGS scientists are working with partners to conduct field trials of an oral sylvatic plague vaccine for prairie dogs. This management tool could be used to reduce the occurrence of plague outbreaks in wildlife.
Impact of sylvatic plague vaccine on non-target small rodents in grassland ecosystems
Local factors associated with on‐host flea distributions on prairie dog colonies
Factors influencing uptake of sylvatic plague vaccine baits by prairie dogs
Burrow dusting or oral vaccination prevents plague-associated prairie dog colony collapse
Paltry past-precipitation: Predisposing prairie dogs to plague?
Sylvatic plague vaccine partially protects prairie dogs (Cynomys spp.) in field trials
Evaluation of Yersinia pestis transmission pathways for sylvatic plague in prairie dog populations in the western U.S.
Apparent field safety of a raccoon poxvirus-vectored plague vaccine in free-ranging prairie dogs (Cynomys spp.), Colorado, USA
Age at vaccination may influence response to sylvatic plague vaccine (SPV) in Gunnison’s prairie dogs (Cynomys gunnisoni)
A rapid field test for sylvatic plague exposure in wild animals
A recombinant raccoon poxvirus vaccine expressing both Yersinia pestis F1 and truncated V antigens protects animals against lethal plague.
Sylvatic plague vaccine: A new tool for conservation of threatened and endangered species?
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Impact of sylvatic plague vaccine on non-target small rodents in grassland ecosystemsOral vaccination is an emerging management strategy to reduce the prevalence of high impact infectious diseases within wild animal populations. Plague is a flea-borne zoonosis of rodents that often decimates prairie dog (Cynomys spp.) colonies in the western USA. Recently, an oral sylvatic plague vaccine (SPV) was developed to protect prairie dogs from plague and aid recovery of the endangered bla
Local factors associated with on‐host flea distributions on prairie dog coloniesOutbreaks of plague, a flea‐vectored bacterial disease, occur periodically in prairie dog populations in the western United States. In order to understand the conditions that are conducive to plague outbreaks and potentially predict spatial and temporal variations in risk, it is important to understand the factors associated with flea abundance and distribution that may lead to plague outbreaks. W
Factors influencing uptake of sylvatic plague vaccine baits by prairie dogsSylvatic plague vaccine (SPV) is a virally vectored bait-delivered vaccine expressing Yersinia pestis antigens that can protect prairie dogs (Cynomys spp.) from plague and has potential utility as a management tool. In a large-scale 3-year field trial, SPV-laden baits containing the biomarker rhodamine B (used to determine bait consumption) were distributed annually at a rate of approximately 100–
Burrow dusting or oral vaccination prevents plague-associated prairie dog colony collapsePlague impacts prairie dogs (Cynomys spp.), the endangered black-footed ferret (Mustela nigripes) and other sensitive wildlife species. We compared efficacy of prophylactic treatments (burrow dusting with deltamethrin or oral vaccination with recombinant “sylvatic plague vaccine” [RCN-F1/V307]) to placebo treatment in black-tailed prairie dog (C. ludovicianus) colonies. Between 2013 and 2015, we m
Paltry past-precipitation: Predisposing prairie dogs to plague?The plague bacterium Yersinia pestis was introduced to California in 1900 and spread rapidly as a sylvatic disease of mammalian hosts and flea vectors, invading the Great Plains in the United States by the 1930s to 1940s. In grassland ecosystems, plague causes periodic, devastating epizootics in colonies of black-tailed prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus), sciurid rodents that create and maintain
Sylvatic plague vaccine partially protects prairie dogs (Cynomys spp.) in field trialsSylvatic plague, caused by Yersinia pestis, frequently afflicts prairie dogs (Cynomys spp.), causing population declines and local extirpations. We tested the effectiveness of bait-delivered sylvatic plague vaccine (SPV) in prairie dog colonies on 29 paired placebo and treatment plots (1–59 ha in size; average 16.9 ha) in 7 western states from 2013 to 2015. We compared relative abundance (using ca
Evaluation of Yersinia pestis transmission pathways for sylvatic plague in prairie dog populations in the western U.S.Sylvatic plague, caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis, is periodically responsible for large die-offs in rodent populations that can spillover and cause human mortalities. In the western US, prairie dog populations experience nearly 100% mortality during plague outbreaks, suggesting that multiple transmission pathways combine to amplify plague dynamics. Several alternate pathways in addition to
Apparent field safety of a raccoon poxvirus-vectored plague vaccine in free-ranging prairie dogs (Cynomys spp.), Colorado, USAPrairie dogs (Cynomys spp.) suffer high rates of mortality from plague. An oral sylvatic plague vaccine using the raccoon poxvirus vector (designated RCN-F1/V307) has been developed for prairie dogs. This vaccine is incorporated into palatable bait along with rhodamine B as a biomarker. We conducted trials in August and September 2012 to demonstrate uptake and apparent safety of the RCN-F1/V307 va
Age at vaccination may influence response to sylvatic plague vaccine (SPV) in Gunnison’s prairie dogs (Cynomys gunnisoni)Gunnison’s prairie dogs (Cynomys gunnisoni) have been considered at greater risk from Yersinia pestis (plague) infection in the montane portion of their range compared to populations at lower elevations, possibly due to factors related to flea transmission of the bacteria or greater host susceptibility. To test the latter hypothesis and determine whether vaccination against plague with an oral syl
A rapid field test for sylvatic plague exposure in wild animalsPlague surveillance is routinely conducted to predict future epizootics in wildlife and exposure risk for humans. The most common surveillance method for sylvatic plague is detection of antibodies to Yersinia pestis F1 capsular antigen in sentinel animals, such as coyotes (Canis latrans). Current serologic tests for Y. pestis, hemagglutination (HA) test and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA
A recombinant raccoon poxvirus vaccine expressing both Yersinia pestis F1 and truncated V antigens protects animals against lethal plague.In previous studies, we demonstrated in mice and prairie dogs that simultaneous administration of two recombinant raccoon poxviruses (rRCN) expressing Yersinia pestis antigens (F1 and V307-a truncated version of the V protein) provided superior protection against plague challenge compared to individual single antigen constructs. To reduce costs of vaccine production and facilitate implementation o
Sylvatic plague vaccine: A new tool for conservation of threatened and endangered species?Plague, a disease caused by Yersinia pestis introduced into North America about 100 years ago, is devastating to prairie dogs and the highly endangered black-footed ferret. Current attempts to control plague in these species have historically relied on insecticidal dusting of prairie dog burrows to kill the fleas that spread the disease. Although successful in curtailing outbreaks in most instance